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Lectio Divina: “before”

Lectio Divina: “before”

Gospel reading: John 1.43-end

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’


As the story goes, Jesus called Philip to follow him, then Philip went and found Nathanael and invited him to ‘come and see’.

And yet, even before Philip invited Nathanael, Jesus had seen him under the fig tree. God’s ability to see someone is not contingent on human invitation. God has already seen and loved those who have been invited, and those who have not yet been invited, and even those who have previously refused an invitation.

So it is not up to us to judge who is worthy of an invitation. God works with us, but it is still up to us to issue that invitation and bring others to ‘Come and see’. Just as Jesus and Philip worked together to bring Nathanael to his encounter with Jesus.

Philip is listed among the disciples in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. He was from Bethsaida. His name is Greek, and he was approached by the Greeks who wished to see Jesus (John 12.20-22). He was a bit flummoxed when Jesus asked him to cater for 5,000 (John 6.5-7). During the Last Supper he betrayed his lack of understanding of Jesus (John 14.8-9). But otherwise we are told little about him. The Philip featuring in a few stories in Acts (6.1-6, 8.4-13, 8.26-40, 21.8-9) is a different Philip. So does Philip the disciple’s story continue in Acts? Is he mentioned in the epistles? In other Christian writing, histories and traditions?

Well yes, there are traditions. But their content and narrative do not matter. What does matter is that he has a story, and his thread is woven in with the chronological threads of the Gospels, and those of the other disciples and characters, and the reception of the texts over the centuries, including my reception during a shared Lectio Divina session on 5 January 2022, and your reception of these my notes expanding on my reflections.

And God’s kairos time is the weft that cuts across and interweaves all the warps of these chronos times to create a beautiful fabric. So let us place Philip back in Galilee, overflowing with excitement after his call by Jesus; and Nathanael under his fig tree, before…


Since April 2020, I have been jointly hosting a shared Lectio Divina group on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings. These are my reflections only, during the prayer session and as I wrote them up. Please see my separate commentary and leaflet for more information about shared Lectio.